It is rare for an audience to applaud at the end of a film. It is even rarer that an audience will break out in to spontaneous applause in the middle of a film to show their appreciation for the sheer balls-to-the-wall brilliance they are witnessing.
However, this is just the kind of reaction The Raid gets and deserves. When you’re not slapping your hands together like an eager seal, you’ll be wondering just how no one died making what is possibly the best action film in a generation.
The story is a simple one; such a threadbare premise usually only belongs to a direct-to-DVD Steven Seagal movie. i sees a SWAT team enter a high rise building to take down a drug lord; they are met with resistance. It may not sound like much of a plot, but this is only the outer layer of a cake full of creamy action-packed filling.
This film is a strange beast. It is an Indonesian film, featuring an Indonesian martial art, with a new Indonesian star (Iko Uwais as Rama) but it is written and directed by a Welshman, Gareth Evans. Perhaps it is this strange marrying of cultures that makes The Raid the standout film that it is.
Evans and Uwais, along with Yayan Ruhian (who plays Mad Dog), have crafted some of the most creative action sequences ever seen. There are no beefed up Stallones or Schwarzeneggers. Uwais and Ruhian fight in a flurry of fists and feet. They break necks, arms and hearts (in a bad, kill you kind of way). They may be small in stature, but they would be more than a match for any of Hollywood’s tough guys.
This will not end well for someone
Uwais could be the next big action star. He is Chow Yun Fat to Evans’ John Woo. He is a hero you can root for, but because he is not a hulking man mountain, also relate to. Despite his clear talent at being able to kill people, you are never sure that he will make it home safe before the credits roll.
The Raid does hit a lot of the expected action movie beats. Rama has to survive so he can get home to his pregnant wife and see his son grow up, blah blah blah. The SWAT team have been betrayed and now they’re on their own, with little chance of survival. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Except we haven’t seen it before. Not like this. There are enough action sequences here to fill three Die Hards.
Iko Uwais: He may look like quite a nice guy, but in fact he’s just thinking of ways to KILL YOU!
The Raid deserves and requires a second watch. The fight scenes move at such speed, it is difficult to catch every punch and stab. Gareth Evans has said that the film isn’t really “that violent”, because the camera cuts away at certain points before we see, say, a machete connect with a neck. But five minutes later someone is getting an axe in the shoulder. It all evens out in the end.
The film is of course being remade by Hollywood, with Gareth Evans hanging on in an executive producer role. This makes it all the more important that people go and see The Raid in its original form. We may never see its like again. Until Evans and Uwais team up for the second part of their trilogy. Roll on Berandal.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time someone dies
Take a Drink: every time someone is maimed
Drink a Shot: when you realise you have an insane man-crush on Iko Uwais